There is currently an international race on the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2. One of the approaches is to use RNA-vaccines for this instead of traditional vaccines. But what is actually the difference between traditional vaccines and RNA-vaccines? I have tried to explain that in this short 2D-animation. I am not so experienced in 2D-animation yet – but I am trying to learn!
In RNA-vaccines, the trick is to inject RNA-sequences from the virus, that codes for critial virus proteins, especially the spike proteins. The RNA can then be taken up (in principle by any cell!) and there get translated by the cellular ribosomes (just like the virus does itself). Thus, the cells start expressing virus proteins. These can then either be expressed on the surface of the cell – be secreted from the cell – or be degraded in the cell by the proteasome and get presented on the surface together with MHC-molecules. All in all, the theory is that this will lead to a much stronger and broader immune response as many more pathways and cells are activated.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is an RNA-virus with a very large genome (in general, coronaviruses have large genomes). This means that it mutates more frequently, but one advantage of the RNA-vaccines in relation to this is that this is very easy to combat, as the injected RNA-strand can rapidly be changed accordingly. With traditional vaccines, it is much more complicated and time-demanding to adjust to mutations.